Mighty No. 9 has a unique struggle. It was proposed to Kickstarter backers as a Mega Man game (without calling it “Mega Man”), but as development continued, it became a game that simply captured the spirit of Mega Man. That obviously confused fans. Reading the concept on the Kickstarter page and watching trailers, it’s clear Mighty No. 9 is a skill-based platformer comparable to Mega Man, but it’s not supposed to be the next Mega Man. It doesn’t pick up and run with the gameplay luggage of previous Mega Man games. It also wasn’t proposed as a re-skin because Comcept can’t use the Mega Man IP. Ultimately, Mighty No. 9 is a retread. It’s Keiji Inafune attempting to give fans more Mega Man without actually giving them Mega Man. The problem is it’s so similar to Mega Man, people are annoyed it’s not Mega Man.
Instead, you control Beck, Mighty No. 9. He is the only robot that has avoided a virus that corrupted a civilization of robots and every other Mighty Number. You’re tasked with saving the other Mighty Numbers, get to the root of the problem, and save the day. It’s hard to invest yourself in the story. It’s an unconvincing attempt to provide context for a game that could stand alone with just gameplay. Mighty Numbers 1-8 have familiar Japanese tunes to their personalities but most didn’t express themselves enough for me to connect with them. Ones like Aviator made me laugh, but the others made me raise an eyebrow or bored me with their humdrum temperaments. Beck especially falls into that category. To be fair, Mega Man was bigger than video games and Beck hasn’t been around long enough for us to emotionally attach to him. But he doesn’t show much to attach to. And though Beck and Mega Man differ in personalities, they also differ in abilities.
Beck can’t charge his cannon, for one, but he can absorb enemy attributes. Beck has a dash move called AcXelerate, and when an enemy takes enough damage, you can use AcXelerate and absorb AcXel of other robots. Their AcXel sometimes adds abilities to your cannon. These abilities are temporary but they stack so you don’t have to worry about losing them as you pierce your body through enemies. You also have to use AcXelerate against bosses in order to inflict permanent damage and that can be particularly challenging. Beck can also use the powers of other Mighty Numbers and switch them on the fly. You can designate up to three powers to different buttons. I wish you could add more than three because it gets tricky scrolling through the abilities while you’re playing. But that is part of the challenge and Mighty No. 9 embraces challenge like a grandmother hugging her grandchildren.
Call (right) has her own level and style of play.
I’m reminded of early 90s platformers. You need nimble fingers. You need patience. Trial and error is important and necessary, as well. As a side-scroller, there are a lot of blind spots so you can be on a roll but all of a sudden you hit an electric field that kills you. It can make your mouth drop. You have a limited number of lives but the game is gracious with checkpoints between lives. But if you lose all of them, you will have to start from the beginning, which can be heartbreaking. Difficulty increases equitably with your skill but each level also tests your use of those skills. It feels like the level is one step ahead when it’s really an unfamiliarity with the nuances of a boss or segment. And like old-school games, once you get through it, it’s easy.
Comcept made one accommodation for those who struggle, though. If you die too many times on Normal mode, a robot will drop random items that might help you get past a segment. Thankfully, the controls are responsive so any failure you have is on you, but that also means any success you have is on you and the explosion of joy and relief after beating a tough segment is extremely satisfying.
Mighty No. 2. Cryosphere. Very powerful freezing capabilities.
Mighty No. 9 also comes with offline and online challenges. The offline challenges are tests such as finishing levels as fast as possible under specific conditions, Super Smash Bros. style break the target levels, and time-trials using levels from the campaign. Online challenges set you against a random player and your goal is to complete the challenge before your opponent does. There’s also a co-op challenge mode where one person controls Beck and the other controls Call - another character that is not a Mighty Number. This mode reminds me of Sonic 2 because if Beck gets too far ahead of Call, she goes into catch-up mode and that doesn’t sound appealing. The online wasn’t available to test while I was reviewing it but that is the gist of how online works.
My only complaint about Mighty No. 9 is the graphics and performance. We remember the trailer with the pizza explosions - and if you haven’t seen it, YouTube it. Unfortunately, explosions still look like pizza. Thankfully, your eyes are so focused on the movement and action that you’ll rarely notice it. Overall, the graphics aren’t attractive and it’s hard to tell if that’s by design or in the spirit of old Mega Man games. If it’s the latter, it doesn’t look deliberate. The colors do pop, however, and the game would look considerably worse if it weren’t for that. Also, animations like body movement lack charisma and the voice acting lacks energy. The framerate is choppy, as well. It mostly stayed around 45-50 FPS but when it hit 60, it was lovely. Sadly, it wouldn’t stay.
Yes. Pizza explosions are in full effect.
Mighty No. 9’s biggest struggles have little to do with the game. It’s extremely challenging and offers plenty of ways for you to keep challenging yourself with simple but precise mechanics. It would be nice if it looked better and the framerate stayed at 60 consistently but those problems don’t hurt what Mighty No. 9 is trying to do. What hurts Mighty No. 9 is that it’s not Mega Man. So if you want Mega Man, keep playing Mega Man. If you want a game in the spirit of Mega Man, Mighty No. 9 will definitely satisfy that desire.
MIGHTY NO. 9 VERDICT
Mighty No. 9 went through a tough development and was rightfully scrutinized but it’s a challenging game with great controls. The graphics could be better and the framerate doesn’t stay at 60 but those problems don’t ultimately hurt the game. What hurts Mighty No. 9 is that it’s not Mega Man. So if you want Mega Man, you’re better off playing Mega Man. If you want a game in the spirit of Mega Man, Mighty No. 9 will satisfy you.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Dodging enemy barrages by sheer instinct thanks to the responsive controls.
Extremely responsive controls
Plenty to do what’s the main campaign is over.
Graphics don’t have a distinct look.
Framerate doesn’t stay at 60. Hovers around 45-50.
Voice acting and animations are lifeless.